Design must be an innovative, highly creative, cross-disciplinary tool responsive to the needs of men. It must be more research-oriented, and we must stop defiling the earth itself with poorly designed objects and structures.

- Victor Papanek


Victor J. Papanek (1923–1998), designer, teacher and author, was born in Vienna, Austria, emigrating to the United States. Educated at Cooper Union and MIT, Papanek was briefly a student of Frank Lloyd Wright early in his career and he became a follower and ally of Buckminster Fuller who wrote the preface to the first English language edition of Papanek’s seminal publication Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971). The book’s groundbreaking ideas and uncompromising critique of contemporary design culture initially divided the design community. Ultimately, however, the polemic was a huge success; translated into twenty-three languages it remains one of the most widely read design books to date.


Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don't need   - with money they don't have, in order to impress others who don't care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today.

  - Victor Papanek


In the course of his career, which lasted into the late 1990s, Papanek applied the principles of socially responsible design in collaborative projects with concerns such as UNESCO and the World Health Organization. He consistently strove to use design as a force for the improvement of life quality in developing countries and peripheral communities in Europe and the US. He travelled and published widely, and through intensive research incorporated the aesthetics and practices of vernacular design into his thinking and teaching.


The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.

- Victor Papanek


Papanek’s other publications include Nomadic Furniture I (1973), Nomadic Furniture II (1974); How Things Don’t Work (1977). He is sole author of Design For Human Scale (1983) and The Green Imperative (1995).



The Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna, seeks to advance the understanding of design from the perspective of social responsibility. It supports design as an innovative and creative practice with the potential to transform societies and enhance human well-being. Inspired by Papanek’s critical and cross-cultural approach to design culture, the Foundation furthers an inclusive and socially-informed approach to contemporary design that challenges the purely commercial imperative of product culture.